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Credit Card Touring of Icefields Parkway?

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Credit Card Touring of Icefields Parkway?

Old 08-06-09, 04:30 PM
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When was the last time you rode 1A? I rode it last in 2006, I believe, and it was a scary road. Very early in the morning the traffic wasn't bad and so I could dodge the potholes, but I rode it back on a Sunday afternoon/evening, and it was insane. Lines of motorhomes trying to drive 100+ on the narrow road with all those potholes, honking at me, driving so close to me I could feel their mirrors whistle past my head. I decided not to ride that road again.

But it starts with all sorts of potential ... it starts as a beautiful road:
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Old 08-06-09, 04:41 PM
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Actually I found that the shuttle is only around $55-60 from Calgary to Banff. That is not too awful bad.

I might just take that. I am hoping this will be a 2010 trip, if not I have to be sure to do it 2011, even if I have to go by myself.

What are the roads like through the parks? I understand the roads are nice and wide and good shoulders for a good portion of the road?
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Old 08-06-09, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
Actually I found that the shuttle is only around $55-60 from Calgary to Banff. That is not too awful bad.

I might just take that. I am hoping this will be a 2010 trip, if not I have to be sure to do it 2011, even if I have to go by myself.

What are the roads like through the parks? I understand the roads are nice and wide and good shoulders for a good portion of the road?
Do ask them if they take bicycles ... sometimes those shuttle vans aren't really set up for taking bicycles.

And have a look at the photos in my collection ... there are lots of pictures of the roads.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7619203595712/

Here's one as an example:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7606660549120/

And this is part of the Bow Valley Parkway:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7606010786530/

As for the shoulders ... yes they are wide, generally, but they can be a little rough from the winter run-off in places. There are places where they're a bit like being on a railway track. And from the end of June to mid-August the traffic is heavy. This is why I recommend taking a break from it all up Hwy 11. And Hwy 93 would also be a good choice for a bit of a break from the traffic etc.
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Old 08-06-09, 04:56 PM
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mostly like this:
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Old 08-06-09, 05:35 PM
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I'm riding from Calgary Airport to Banff from the crack of dawn on Saturday August 8. Based on what I'm hearing, I'm choosing the wide shoulders and heavy truck traffic of 1 over no shoulders and occassional traffic of 1A. But its sounding that 1A will be busy with seasonal traffic too.
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Old 08-06-09, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyclesafe
I'm riding from Calgary Airport to Banff from the crack of dawn on Saturday August 8. Based on what I'm hearing, I'm choosing the wide shoulders and heavy truck traffic of 1 over no shoulders and occassional traffic of 1A. But its sounding that 1A will be busy with seasonal traffic too.
If you're hitting Hwy 1A at the crack of dawn, you should be fine on it ... but if you're hitting it in the middle of the day, or later in the day, it's a busy road. A lot of people have "discovered" 1A and think it would be nice to take it rather than Hwy 1 for a change.
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Old 08-06-09, 07:19 PM
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The roads are pretty good between Lake Louise and Jasper. Between Lake Louise and Banff though, theres quite a bit of construction at the moment because they're twinning the highway. You could probably travel fairly safely on hwy1 but I really think 1a AFTER Cochrane would be a better choice due to the slower speeds and lack of tourist traffic. As was mentioned, just get out there early and try not to travel on the weekend.
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Old 08-06-09, 08:16 PM
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So, you've already gotten a lot of good information from various sources here, but I'll try to summarize some things as a "local".

As far as altitiude, don't worry about it. That's why lots of people prefer skiing here to Colorado, because it's so low it won't affect you. Don't worry about the passes either. They are quite easy. Nothing more than about 7-8% for any stretch of distance, and even then you are never going to average more than 7%/km.

Lots of options for accommodations depending on budget. It can easily be done as a credit card tour. If you want more upscale options, you have stops in Banff, Lake Louise, Saskatchewan Crossing, Columbia Icefields, and Jasper. At all those places you will find restaurant options, so no need to carry food. As others have said, you can shorten distances by using hostels, but then you will need to carry food. Prices are lower than people have led you to believe, at least in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. Like every where else, we are lacking in tourists, and as a result, you could walk into a hotel and get a room any night (except for long weekends) for around $125. Saskatchewan Crossing and the Icefields are different since they are the only game in town in those areas, so they can still charge what they want.

The road conditions are generally quite good. From Banff to Lake Louise has been almost totally repaved in the last 2 years. Once on the Icefields Parkway, the shoulders are huge, but quite rough. I just take the edge of the actual lane where the road is much better. Never had any problems. It's a bit of a crap shoot from Calgary to Banff, but I would probably still tend to take 1A rather than the Trans Canada, especially after 1X.

As others have also said, you can make this as long or as short as you want. Really Banff to Jasper can be done in 2 fairly comfortable days if you wish. Or you could take time to do some hikes and other things in the area to lengthen the tour. One way to lengthen it would be to start heading south from Calgary so you can swing through Kananaskis Country and over Highwood Pass. This would pretty much allow you to skip the Trans Canda (except for about 5km) and be on the safer parts of the 1A.

If there are any further questions, let me know.
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Old 08-06-09, 08:54 PM
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Thanks. yes I have a few more questions.

I'm thinking of sometime July-August. Any weeks I should avoid? Races, festivals etc. where the parks will be especially crowded?

I was thinking of taking my road bike (more of a tour / comfort bike, I can fit 28MM tires pretty easy) or should I bring my hybrid?

How far should I make reservations in advance for hostels?

Do it in 2 days********** Not me! That's 200km per day. Yikes!
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Old 08-06-09, 09:03 PM
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All the weeks between the end of June and mid-August will be busy. If you go late August the flow of tourists lightens a bit, but the weather can be cooler.

Yes, definitely a road bicycle is the way to go. It's all paved road out there.

Remember how I posted a link to Hostelling International in the third post in this thread? Go there, find any you're interested in, and contact them. Email them and ask if they think you should book now, or can wait a bit. You can get the info right from the source that way.

And you've got a year to build up your mileage and strength!
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Old 08-06-09, 09:21 PM
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The holiday weekends would be July 1st, and the first Monday in August forms a long weekend. Outside of those weekends, it would be about the same most days throughout the summer. Outside of the towns, it never really feels that crowded. Tourism really has dropped off a fair bit the last couple of years, and I don't see it picking up too much next year.

For some reason, from around the 20th-31st of July seems to produce consistently good weather. No guarantees though. Generally mid July to mid August would be the best weather. Rain in the summer generally comes later in the afternoon, so if you get early starts, it's generally not too bad.

Your road bike would be fine. I have toured on the Icefields Parkway, but generally I day ride on it with my road bike. It can be a little harsh depending on your bike (I ride a CAAD 8 so it's a little harsh), but it sounds like your road bike is a more relaxed geometry. You don't need 28's unless you really want to. I ride 23's, but 25's would probably be the best option. You would probably want a comapct crank, but you should be fine with a double. Something like 34-27 should be plenty. As I recall from other threads, you pack quite lightly no?

I've never actually stayed in any of those hostels to be honest. I usually camp on the Parkway. I would think that booking by late May would suffice for July August. Ski season here goes until the end of May, and most people aren't thinking of summer yet so they won't have booked.

When I said 2 days, I meant the Banff to Jasper portion. That's only 145km/day, and I said "fairly comfortably". However, I think you should take longer to enjoy some short hikes etc. While I really think the Kananaskis/Highwood Pass route would be great, I don't think you would be able to credit card tour that route. You would have to camp at least once or twice.

Last edited by TOLOCOMan; 08-06-09 at 09:25 PM.
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Old 08-06-09, 09:59 PM
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I stayed in Rampart 2 nights, there was plenty of room. The hostel in Lake Louise was full when I tried to stay there, but I was trying to get in the same day. There was room at the hostel in Bannf, but I decided not to stay there.

Come on, someone say something about my cool bear!!!
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Old 08-07-09, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclesafe
I'm riding from Calgary Airport to Banff from the crack of dawn on Saturday August 8. Based on what I'm hearing, I'm choosing the wide shoulders and heavy truck traffic of 1 over no shoulders and occassional traffic of 1A. But its sounding that 1A will be busy with seasonal traffic too.
I hope you read this in time. The way I remember it, the 1A is wide shouldered out of Calgary. You lose that shoulder after you pass Cochrane, and regain it when you hit the front range mountains. I have ridden both the 1 and 1A hundreds of times and would strongly recommend the 1A. There's no 1A between Canmore and Banff town, but you get it back just after the townsite. There's another thread on this, in which I laid out my suggested route out of Calgary. Enjoy your trip!
Originally Posted by valygrl

Come on, someone say something about my cool bear!!!
Valygrl, your bear is too cool for school.
And it fills me with good memories.
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Old 08-07-09, 05:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Metzinger
I hope you read this in time. The way I remember it, the 1A is wide shouldered out of Calgary. You lose that shoulder after you pass Cochrane, and regain it when you hit the front range mountains. I have ridden both the 1 and 1A hundreds of times and would strongly recommend the 1A. There's no 1A between Canmore and Banff town, but you get it back just after the townsite. There's another thread on this, in which I laid out my suggested route out of Calgary. Enjoy your trip!
OK, on such a strong recommendation I've mapped my way out of Calgary on the route you suggested. I've looked up campsite availablity at Banff and Lake Louise. It seems that they have plenty of space for a "small tent". The last time I was on the Icefields was in late June 2006. I am totally stoked about being back there.

Last edited by Cyclesafe; 08-07-09 at 06:20 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-07-09, 05:20 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
I stayed in Rampart 2 nights, there was plenty of room. The hostel in Lake Louise was full when I tried to stay there, but I was trying to get in the same day. There was room at the hostel in Bannf, but I decided not to stay there.

Come on, someone say something about my cool bear!!!
Awesome pic.
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Old 08-07-09, 07:35 AM
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Old 08-07-09, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclesafe
OK, on such a strong recommendation I've mapped my way out of Calgary on the route you suggested. I've looked up campsite availablity at Banff and Lake Louise. It seems that they have plenty of space for a "small tent". The last time I was on the Icefields was in late June 2006. I am totally stoked about being back there.
Bring a good groundsheet for your tent and a few extra pegs to batten things down. We've had some really weird weather this year. It seems to go from really hot and calm to severe winds with heavy downpour. Aside from that, the park campgrounds are really nice, good tentpads and usually comfortable surroundings. Try to book ahead though, I know the Jasper campgrounds have been filling up pretty regular.

As for the question of the road bike, bring it, if you're travelling light, you'll appreciate the nimbleness when you're climbing and descending. Nothing like rocketing down from Bow Summit or Tangle Ridge on a fast bike.
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Old 08-08-09, 02:31 AM
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I just returned from a tour in Banff and Jasper last week. Rode the 1a from Calgary to Banff (where the 1a existed), then from Banff to Lake Louise. I found it a very good road to ride and had no bad experiences with traffic.

If you wish to take motorized transport from the Calgary airport to Banff (or elsewhere in that area), I highly recommend Brewster's. After injuring my leg I was stuck in Lake Louise. One-way car rental from Lake Louise to Banff was $60+$75; taxi was $120; Greyhound was $50 plus freight for bicycle. Contacted Brewster's and it was $21 and no fee for bicycle or four panniers.

I used Brewster's from Banff to Calgary airport and it was $60, again no fee for bicycle and four panniers. They simply slide the bicycle and panniers in the cargo hold, no issues. They also seem to do special collection and delivery if not too far off their standard route.
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Old 08-08-09, 02:56 AM
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Nice to hear that Brewster is willing to help cyclists out like that. The last time I talked to them (2005, I think) they didn't seem all that keen on having anything to do with cyclists.
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Old 08-08-09, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
I am hoping this will be a 2010 trip, if not I have to be sure to do it 2011, even if I have to go by myself.
Do I smell another BF group tour coming on in 2010 with the Spinnaker at the helm. (How's that for a mixture of sailing terms)
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Old 08-08-09, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by robow
Do I smell another BF group tour coming on in 2010 with the Spinnaker at the helm. (How's that for a mixture of sailing terms)
I second that!
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Old 08-08-09, 01:29 PM
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Wondering...we are tandeming from Jasper to Banff early Sept... would you ride 93 or 93A from Jasper?
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Old 08-08-09, 01:53 PM
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93A is a nice ride, bit of a climb from the start but then it levels off and is kind of like a roller coaster. The only downside is the lack of views because its closed in by the trees and the road surface is a little bit rougher. Good option though.
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Old 08-08-09, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by robow
Do I smell another BF group tour coming on in 2010 with the Spinnaker at the helm. (How's that for a mixture of sailing terms)

And here I've just moved out of the Icefield Parkway area to the other side of the world!! If you would have done this tour this past May, I'd have been right in the area.


Who's up for an Australian tour??
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Old 08-08-09, 04:23 PM
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BTW - this was last year's thread about touring and riding in the Canadian Rockies, and if you do a search on 'icefield', there are lots of threads about it.

https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...light=icefield
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